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Almirola leads RPM front row at Charlotte

Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson will start from third place, and will be joined on the second row by Championship points leader Greg Biffle.

"Our qualifying effort this year has been improving week in and week out," said Johnson. "I can't express enough how important that is on pit road and late in the race. It just opens up so many options for you on two versus four tyres.

"I'm very proud of the effort today," he added. "I wish we were a little faster but those RPM guys seem to have a little chunk of speed on the field all day long," he said, pointing out that Ambrose had earlier set the top time in practice as well. "I'm happy for those guys, it's a smaller team that is working hard and I know it's a big day for them. I wish it was us, but we will come back and learn a little more Saturday and go racing.”

The drivers get Friday off but have two full practice sessions on Saturday, before the race itself on Sunday evening with the green flag scheduled for shortly after 5.30pm local time (10.30pm BST).

Danica Patrick, having opted to forego any one-off return to open wheel racing at this year's Indianapolis 500 held earlier on the same day, will start from 40th position after making the grid based on car owner points.

That's one row ahead of Kurt Busch, who was the biggest casualty of qualifying after hitting the wall in turn 2 and then rebounding into a hard nose-first hit on the inside wall on his qualifying run, meaning he will need to race the back-up car for the weekend.

"Sorry, guys," radioed Busch, who like Danica had to rely on car owner points to make the starting grid. Trevor Bayne was the highest-placed driver in 11th to qualify on speed alone. Missing out on a Sunday shift were David Reutimann, JJ Yeley, Mike Bliss and Scott Riggs.

Full qualifying and Thursday practice times.




Related Pictures

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Kurt Busch after spinning the #51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet in qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday in Concord, N.C. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 U.S. Air Force Ford, poses after qualifying for the pole position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday in Concord, N.C. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Stars and Stripes Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 3, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, walks through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 3, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, leads Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, at the end of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 28, 2015 in Sonoma, California. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 28, 2015 in Sonoma, California. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 28, 2015 in Sonoma, California. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 28, 2015 in Sonoma, California. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Pro Services Chevrolet, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 28, 2015 in Sonoma, California. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place, Sunday June 28, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place, Sunday June 28, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place, Sunday June 28, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Folds of Honor/Outback Steakhouse/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place, Sunday June 28, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Folds of Honor/Outback Steakhouse/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place, Sunday June 28, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position, Saturday June 27, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position, Saturday June 27, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kingsford Charcoal Chevrolet, qualifies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 27, 2015 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kingsford Charcoal Chevrolet, poses with Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz and the Coors Light Pole Award decal after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 27, 2015 in Sonoma, California. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Kingsford Charcoal Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 27, 2015 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 26, 2015 in Sonoma, California. (Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Clint Bowyer, left, driver of the #15 5-Hour Energy Toyota, talks with Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 26, 2015 in Sonoma, California. (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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